Sunday, December 13, 2009


"Down there they are dubious and askance; there nobody thinks as I,
But mind-chains do not clank where ones next neighbour is the sky."
-from "Wessex Heights" (1896), Thomas Hardy.

I've always thought that the sky is so much bigger here; wider.

"Welcome to New York
The Empire State."

I've been theorizing about what my Amelie character introduction would sound like, having watched it through last night for the first time, and so far a definite inclusion in the 'dislikes' would be "the wave of nausea and discomfort that reaches you on remembering that you have to wake up early to catch a train or bus or plane"; that's really awful.

I really need to keep my camera on me at all times; we just drove past a random, living tree by the side of the tracks that some festive soul has adorned with impromptu winter decorations; "little signs of human goodness that make my soul smile" I think can go into the 'likes' category, this being a beautiful example.

To paint the backdrop, I was up at around 2:20 this morning to catch a taxi to Kingston bus station, where I caught the 3:45 bus to Montreal. I then picked up a taxi from Montreal bus depot to Montreal train station, where I picked up my ticket for the 9:30am Amtrak from Montreal to Penn Station, New York, on which I am now sat. Having watched the miles of Canada drift past in a blizzard of whiteness, we're now just across the border and into New York state; it's just started sporadically to rain white here too, and, once customs have given us the go, the landscapes of upstate will be printing across my window as I chug down the country towards the city I am once again calling home.

(pause while customs & border protection make their rounds) wouldn't believe the difference in reception going into these United States with an American passport; the only time I've used my British one (on a school trip), I wasn't even quite sixteen yet, and I remember being treated with enough hostility to leave me genuinely hurt as I left the airport, although, this was probably exacerbated by how accustomed I had been to the usual friendly smiles and "welcome home". The latter wasn't the precise phrase used by the customs officer when I flew into JFK at the end of last month, but "welcome back, hun" was sufficient still to bring that smile and sigh of being home. This officer that's just finished checking our carriage was particularly kind also, and a reminder (as if I needed any more) of why I feel so deeply that I belong here, despite having been born and almost entirely raised in England. I generally put this down to the combination of countless Christmases and Summers in New York, and having been raised by an entirely American mother, but really the origin of my sense of belonging and patriotism isn't all that relevant to me; I just love this big crazy country and feel so blessed to be able to call myself a citizen when so many would give so much for the privilege which I was born with.

Ok, we're moving again and I'm falling into America The Beautiful goo again, so I'm gonna go back to listening to mixed tapes and consuming Pfeffernusse and Twinning's gunpowder green tea and write again when something interests or inspires (of course, as usual).

"Well, Penny, like anything worth writing, it came inexplicably and without method."-Karen Eiffel, Stranger Than Fiction :)

"Like a little spider, I'm climbing the insurmountable, but I never hold myself accountable."-from KT Tunstall's 'Drastic Fantastic'

I know and love so many people who would just adore this ride, these views. It really is so unbearably beautiful, I can't put the Flip down, even though I know it won't do justice to the colors and vastness of life here...(watch this space for a most likely long and dull video of passing upstate landscapes out of a train window haha).

Sign by the railway crossing: "Please drive safely, we <3 our children."

No more lakes now, but there's a big strong river running alongside us whose rocks look like big marshmallows because of the snow.

Ooh, more lakes :) (just outside Port Henry)

I'm getting increasingly curious about these orange "POSTED" signs that I keep seeing stuck to trees.

Slightly concerned that the live No Doubt performance I'm watching may look, to the glance of a passerby, like porn. Hahah...oh my. If I could ever achieve even ten percent of Gwen's stage presence as a frontman, even for one song of one gig, I will be beyond content.

Shoot, I just wanted something to watch, but it's set me onto the ND now. "do it right now, do it right now," maaaan I love Beacon St.; nothing more keeps you hovering longer when you're on a high than old skanky No Doubt. Not that it's their best work; it actually kind of frustrates me when "hardcore", purist fans go on about how they like their earliest work better than the newest just for the sake of letting everyone know that they're such a devoted listener blah blah. Isn't it kind of a little insulting to an artist to be asserting that they haven't made any decent music in years? Ok, rant over haha. My favorite album so far is Return Of Saturn, but I have high hopes for the stuff that's in the writing as we speak/I type. I mean, I would consider myself a pretty hardcore fan, except for the fact that I haven't seen them live yet, but I really haven't had the opportunity. One of many travesties I can blame on my year of birth (just missing the eighties, never seeing Queen live, never seeing Barbra Streisand in Funny Girl on broadway, missing the Mac's "glory days", as t'were, being a little too young to marry Stevie Nicks...)

Another like: "when telegraph poles (/other objects) pass the window in time with the music I'm listening to".

Ok, I was just semi in a daze and moved my head to look away from the window, and because the glass is warped it makes it look like your view's gone like wavy...and for a split second I swear to god I thought I was going into a flashback or a dream sequence or something...hahah signs you're overtired?

Wow, phonecall frenzy. Ma and Shell :) all of which is good except that I can never tell how loudly I'm talking, so I always worry that I'm being really inconsiderately loud when I get a call on public transport. I'll just have to gauge it by how scornful my fellow travelers' glances are.

We are now stopped at Albany-Rensselaer for like a half hour 'cause we're ahead of schedule, and some oldish lady just walked past the window wearing what I can only describe as some kind of little white bonnet thing. Also I'm pretty sure I can hear Christmas music playing on the platform (Y).

Dislikes: "when arm or foot rests aren't at a comfortable height".

Wow, beard alert.

Ohh no I keep drifting asleep, no no no. If I fall asleep now I'll never wake up again.

Ok I'm managing to stay awake, and I'm gonna go get something from the cafe cart thing once we start moving again to keep me alive for the last leg. Due into Penn station in just under two and a half hours, then subway to the ferry dock, hopefully catch the nine o'clock ferry, then train from St. George back to Beth's. THEN tomorrow *morning* we are driving down to Grandma's in May's Landing. And all of this following the drive, ferry, subway into Manhattan and then two buses (13 hours & 3 hours) to get up to Kingston four or five days ago...a journey which I managed to drag myself through only five days after flying to New York from London. I should get some kind of medal or award or something for this. Oh no wait, I did. I'm living in New York, I got to spend four days with Shell, and I'm gonna get to see Grandma.

While I hope I remember to exclude this from whatever I actually post of this rambling stream of consciousness, it has just occurred to me that by the time we get into the city, I will have spent more time with the people in this carriage with me today than I have ever spent with the person that I may well be falling in love with. How crazy :)

It's now 7:03pm, and I'm going to let Clodia rest for the last little while. So, we shall end as we began:

"The steps are a blanched slope,
Up which, with feeble hope,
A black cat comes, wide-eyed and thin;
And we take him in."
-from "Snow In The Suburbs", Thomas Hardy.

It's been a joy :)

Sunday, December 06, 2009


It can be difficult to write in public. Especially when you're somewhere like on a plane, where you know people have nothing much to do or look at and so will be more likely than usual to look over your shoulder at your book or film or, in my case, impromptu blog post/general writing being typed in an unfamiliar and kind of cool-looking word processing application... oh, and once again iTunes shuffle manages to tap into the universe and give me a song of such relevance and humor that I can't help but wonder if perhaps its magical powers are increased by the altitude. Yes, altitude. This is almost definitely the highest post I have ever written, as I am currently... (excuse me while I attempt to navigate the oddly counter-intuitive functioning of the entertainment screen to find the in-flight info) ...ooh, we're almost over Newfoundland :), why would I want to look at the air map thing in this many different formats, tell me the altitude please... really? A whole planet view?...Planet view including weird blob of darkness thing indicating the geographical placement of nightfall? Really?... ah, here we go- 35777ft. This information no longer really feels all that worthwhile, having sat through two and a half rounds of the amusingly elaborate/useless informational graphic reel...ok, screen off. And down to business. Why am I currently over thirty-five thousand feet over that unimaginably vast, sometimes lethal, often beautiful body of water we like to call the Atlantic Ocean, Clodia cramped awkwardly between my seat-belt buckle and quaintly designed tray-top, falling into a writing style so convoluted and hyper-descriptive as to be painful to garner any meaning from? (d'ya like what I did there?...haha). Well, I'm here because I did it.

I have this memory that recently decided to show itself suddenly and for no apparent reason (as is consistent with how my memories often make their entrance) of a time when my mother, my sister and I were living in London in a little apartment above a Chinese take-away place on the Watford Way. Mom was studying sports therapy at Hendon College down the road, Jess was in maybe her first or second year of secondary school at Loreto College in St.Albans, and I must have been in year four or five of primary school at St.Joseph's, just around the corner. Despite the occasional rats and cockroaches, and the (not entirely unconnected, I'm sure) constant and eventually chronically nauseating smell from the restaurant downstairs, we were three girls, a family, just getting along, learning and living and laughing together, and it was a good time. And the particular memory that recently drifted back to me of this time was during what would've started out as one of the more difficult days; our nearest supermarket was a good twenty minute walk down the noise and dirt of the motorway, and, although this isn't really much of a journey alone or with only fully-grown companions, with two young daughters and (on the return trek) a week's groceries, I consider my mother (not uncharacteristically) brave to undertake such a task on a regular basis. Anyhow, so on some nights, when Jess & I were particularly cranky from the errand, or it was dark enough to worry about the dangers of London at night, we would be spared the daunting walk and treated to a cab ride home by our merciful mother. On this particular night, not only was it dark when we got outside, but it was one of the first really bitingly cold nights that are a sure-fire sign Winter has truly elbowed Fall out of its way (a night not unlike, incidentally, tonight), and it might've been raining, although I can't say for sure. The three of us were standing shivering outside the neon warmth of the supermarket waiting for the then smoky comfort of a cab's dustiness and new familiarity, when our mother decided to let us in on the surprise she'd been teasing us with for the past few weeks. We were going to New York for Christmas. Now, for most young girls, this surprise would perhaps have meant a big, famous, shiny new city in the fabled country of Hollywood and perpetually flattering lighting, but for us, this meant a trip of unequivocally insufficient length, this meant a Christmas that counted because it was white, this meant Grandma, and cousins, and Jolly Ranchers; this was the promised land. Home.

This is the first memory I have of crying from pure joy. These days it isn't all that rare an occasion, but at the time it was completely unexpected and, frankly, quite alarming. And that overwhelming joy that I, age seven or eight, felt at the prospect of the journey to a place where, for some as of yet unexplained reason, I felt so comfortable and content, as though the entire country were my own bed, that I pined for it like a relative, never faded, never waned. Every trip was as revitalizing as it was saddening, because, whether it was ten days, two weeks, or twenty-one whole, correct days later, I always had to leave. And so, when it came to my attention, as my last year of school came speeding towards and through me, that I couldn't go any longer studying when my mind pulled my focus so fiercely towards writing and playing music, there seemed little question as to the inherent interconnectivity of these two ideals; I wanted to go to America, and I wanted to play music. I wanted to play music, and America was the place to do it. But I had to get there myself. I was a grown up now, and if I was going to take the reigns of my life and build it how I'd always felt I could and would, I had to do this right. So I moved out of my Mom's home, and away from the small town we'd landed in for the past five years, and back to London to work my way to New York to sing. Six jobs, three changes of address, a drastic haircut, a new best friend, and hours of sleep deprivation later, and I was walking to the bank with enough wages saved to get me across that sky of water and give it a try. And so here I am. I have packed up as little as I could bear of my belongings (not very little, in fact, at all), I have kissed my mother and father and brother and sister goodbye, and I am breathing. I'm on this plane, for the first time in my many flights without family or Shell or school, and I'm sitting next to a woman with a kind soul and my Grandmother's eyes, and the the head-rush fumes of her nail-polish are assuaging my nerves, and I am alive. And I am tired from this past year, and I am anxious, and I am sad at the lack of my recently so warm and present family, and I am older, as always, than I should be, and I am on my way.